Last Sunday, we met at the Norwalk Concert Hall for a special treat – a full-length performance of G.H. Handel’s Messiah, sung by the Fairfield County Chorale, with orchestra and soloists: soprano Pascale Beaudin, countertenor Gon Halevi, tenor Nils Neubert, and bass Andrew Cummings, directed by David Rosenmeyer. It was a fantastic performance, and what made it extra special is that Tish Fried, one of our members, was part of the Chorale. Here, she shares her experience with us.
Being Part of the Whole
by Patricia (Tish) Fried
“But I just don’t know that much about classical music.”
“So…?” said my friend.
“So, how can I sing the Fairfield County Chorale’s repertoire? The only piece I know is the “Hallelujah Chorus” and that was in sixth grade!”
“So … you’ll learn!”
At ten I was a baby folkie playing my little guitar. At thirteen I played a bigger guitar while wearing full hippie regalia. I’ve been in rock bands, sung jazz, and studied voice including a little opera. But this?
“Just audition,” he insisted. “I know you will love it. The concerts are incredible. The music director is brilliant, the orchestra and soloists are top notch, the acoustics amazing, the music wonderful…”
“There’s more – you get to be a part of the whole. Come with me.”
I went, I auditioned; I was in. The choir members were welcoming and David Rosenmeyer, the choir director, was a gift; charismatic yet warm always interesting, rigorous and generous. Those first few months I struggled. David had chosen a challenging piece: Bach’s Magnificat. What a way to get your feet wet – singing in Latin and learning how to sing what felt like endless melismas.
The night of the concert came quickly. My nerves were on high alert as we entered the Norwalk Concert hall to the cacophony of the orchestra warming up. I climbed up the risers to the top row and told myself to calm down. I knew the music, well almost, and then it came to me; I wasn’t alone. I could count on the over 100 members standing with me, all supporting each other, all committed to the music and the audience. It went by fast and I loved every minute.
We all talk about the importance of being part of something larger than ourselves. Singing together creates a whole that is greater than our individual parts. And together, something sublime happens that can move people even thrill them. That is art and how great is that?
This holiday season, we just sang Handel’s Messiah; music that has endured for more than 200 years becoming one of the best known and most frequently performed. David created a sense of intimacy with the audience, allowing them to hear the piece — its drama, emotion, and spirituality — in a new way.
He said, “It really is transforming. By the last five minutes, we — the audience and the musicians — feel as though we have been on an incredible journey, that we have reached the top of a peak … not by helicopter, but by climbing it together.”
And together we climbed. And then, the whole audience, some with tears in their eyes, stood to experience the “Hallelujah Chorus.” It thrilled me now as it did in sixth grade.*
*The tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus originates from a belief that, apparently overcome by emotion, King George II stood at this point during the work’s London debut, requiring all there to do the same.
The Fairfield County Chorale is now in its 55th season of presenting great choral works in southwestern Connecticut. The Chorale is comprised of over 100 voices, and every concert is presented with a professional orchestra and soloists. On March 10th the Chorale celebrates Bernstein’s 100th Birthday with the Chichester Psalms, “Overture” and “Make our Garden Grow” from Candide as well as Bruckner’s “Psalm 150” and Dvorák’s “Te Deum”. On May 12th we sing Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The choir has been rehearsing this magnificent music since September. It will be spectacular. Please see the website for ticketing and more information: fairfieldcountychorale.org or call (203) 858-3714.
Patricia (Tish) Fried is Director of Archival Services at Lawrence Fried Photography, (www.lawrencefried.com). She co-founded Westport’s Write Yourself Free and The Editing Company.